When most people think of weeds, they visualize benign garden pests such as dandelions and chickweed. These weeds are often included in the burn barrels of homeowners who do their own landscape maintenance because burning is a good way to ensure that all weed seeds are thoroughly destroyed. However, there are certain weeds that should never be burned because their fumes are highly toxic. Following are three weeds that you should not put into your outdoor burn barrel:
Still widely used in home landscaping projects in spite of it's poisonous properties, Oleander heads the list of plants that should never be burned. It's particularly toxic to children when touched or ingested, and fumes caused when it's burned can cause significant respiratory distress.
Even though its use in home landscaping is declining as its poisonous potential is realized, it has naturalized in many areas and can be found on roadsides and in open woods.
2. Purple Nightshade
Because purple nightshade grows so rampantly in most parts of the country, homeowners as a group are already aware that ingesting the berries or leaves can cause toxic reactions in both humans and domestic animals. However, many of the same people fail to stop and think before they place purple nightshade in their burn barrels and light a fire.
Although the fumes aren't as toxic as those of Oleander, purple nightshade fumes can nonetheless cause swelling in the air passageways of those who breath it, resulting in coughing and choking.
3. Poison Oak and Poison Ivy
Neither poison oak nor poison ivy should be disposed of by burning because the same allergic reaction that can occur when your skin comes into contact with this plant can take place when you inhale the smoke that it produces when burned. The same plant oil that causes severe contact dermatitis when touched is also highly flammable, resulting in internal blistering and extreme swelling of lung, nasal, and throat tissues when breathed in.
Although there are many other weeds that should not be burned, the preceding three are the ones most commonly found on most North American properties. A good rule of thumb is that if you can't positively identify any vegetative matter before placing it in your outdoor burn barrel, you should err on the side of caution and find an alternative way of disposing of it.
Don't hesitate to contact a weed control supplies specialist for assistance if you are uncertain of appropriate ways to get rid of unwanted vegetative matter.